Results for Robert Johnson


Bruce Conforth on the Legend of Robert Johnson

This week, Jim and Greg are tackling the music of a man whose myth is larger than life - blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Robert Johnson. The legend surrounding the "Sweet Home Chicago" singer is that he“sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads”in exchange for his signature guitar playing prowess. Born in 1911, Johnson displayed great stage presence, talent and potential, but he died suddenly at the age of 27 under suspicious circumstances. That was 81 years ago this month, and since then there have been all kinds of strange rumors and stories told about Johnson. Jim and Greg talk with an expert on Robert Johnson, Bruce Conforth. He co-wrote the book Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson with historian Gayle Dean Wardlow because they wanted to set the record straight. Throughout this long process, they realized the truth they were beginning to uncover was more fascinating than the myth.

Go to episode 715

Kurt Vile

First there was the myth of blues legend Robert Johnson meeting the devil. Now we have the myth of a fork lift driver turned guitar virtuoso and poet. But as Kurt Vile explains, his rise to success has actually been quite slow and methodical. After leaving the band The War on Drugs, he has released five albums and earned the respect of music peers (not to mention a reputation for being an A+ rock student). His latest is called Wakin on a Pretty Daze.

Go to episode 386

Peter Guralnick on Sam Phillips & Sun Studios

Samphillipsbook Peter Guralnick has written extensively about American music for decades including a two-part biography on Elvis Presley, the biography Searching for Robert Johnson and an acclaimed trilogy on American roots music. Now he's back with a comprehensive look at Sam Phillips called The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll: How One Man Discoverd Howlin' Wolf, Ike Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley and How His Tiny Label Sun Records of Memphis, Revolutionized the World. If Sam Phillips, Sun Studios or Sun Records are new names to you, Peter wants to take you back to 1950s and 60s for what many historians call the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. Sun was home to black and white artists of the era who were merging genres like country, gospel, and R&B in ways unthinkable at the time. And that kind of freedom of spirit and enthusiasm, in addition to the idea that everybody has a song to sing, were the tenants of the Sun sound, even more than sonic hallmarks like "slapback echo."

Go to episode 523

The Compact Disc

Rock Doctors

Thirty years ago this month, the team from Phillips developed the technology behind Compact Discs. Since the pressing of the first CD, the music industry has become completely revolutionized. By 1999 CDs brought in 15 billion dollars to record labels. But, that same technology has also lead to the industry's downfall.

To honor, and mourn, the CD in its old age, Jim and Greg each play a song that illustrates what the shiny disc has meant to them. Jim plays a song from the first album he purchased on CD, The Beatles' Revolver. Previously "And Your Bird Can Sing" was only available on the UK release, but after the advent of CDs, Jim was able to have it in the US.

Greg chooses to play "Get It Together," from the James Brown box set Star Time. For him the CD era was an opportunity to get access to music you might not otherwise hear. The labels were curating their back catalog with box sets of early Elvis or Robert Johnson.“Get It Together”was a track Greg searched for for years, and thanks to CDs, he got to hear it again.

Go to episode 172


“If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day”Robert Johnson

To cap off the show, Greg pays tribute to Robert Johnson. The 100th anniversary of the bluesman's death is this year. Although he died at the age of 27 and didn't get to record much in his lifetime, he nonetheless became so influential many regard him as the godfather of rock and roll. With his unique vocal and guitar performances and complicated narratives, it's easy to understand why Johnson resonates today. Greg chooses to add the song "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day" to the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 291

Robert Johnson Covers

Jim and Greg thought they'd continue the Robert Johnson conversation by sharing some of their favorite covers and interpretations of his music.

Go to episode 715

Devil Songs for Halloween

Whether or not you agree rock ‘n’ roll is the devil's music, Lucifer sure is a major player in pop. From Robert Johnson to "Sympathy for the Devil," beelzebub gets name dropped as much as the latest hip-hop sensation. Here are Jim and Greg's favorites to get you in the Halloween mood:

Go to episode 517

Songs About the Devil

Devil Songs The tale of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for his prodigious guitar playing skills is one that dates back to the early 1900s. This inspired an entire new category of tracks: devil songs. Jim and Greg share a few of their favorite tracks that reference the character of "the devil." *Note: Sound Opinions does not endorse the devil or any of his messages.

Go to episode 666

Music News

Jim and Greg start off the news by discussing the Recording Industry's strategy to end illegal downloading. It was recently revealed that the RIAA spent over $64 million in legal fees on piracy lawsuits and extracted only about $1.4 million in damages. France has been equally unsuccessful in their anti-piracy campaign. Their“3 Strikes”law hasn't resulted in any actual penalties. Now legislators are backing away from the policy. Jim and Greg wonder if all this money and effort would be better spent paying back royalties to the likes of Robert Johnson.

There were a couple of deaths in the rock world last week. Big Star bassist Andy Hummel died at the age of 59 just four months after his band mate Alex Chilton died. Chilton and Hummel were to reunite at this year's SXSW Festival.

Also, poet and musician Tuli Kupferberg died at age 86. Kupferberg founded The Fugs in the 1960s and laid the groundwork for punk and underground bands to come. To honor the Beatnik activist Jim plays one of his“davening”style tunes, "Nothing."

Go to episode 243